In the December/January issue of Phi Delta Kappan, Michael Reichert and Richard Hawley explore effective teaching practices for reaching boys. In their study, they looked for common characteristics of effective practice reported by a large sample of teachers and boys. Teachers were asked to recount the story of an effective practice they have used and male students were asked to tell “the story of a class experience that stood out as being especially memorable.” Schools from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, South Africa and Australia participated in the study.

Reichert and Hawley note the following:

Boys are relational learners.

Teachers who experience success with boys emphasize the relational dimension of teaching, “regardless of the subject”. The boys Reichert and Hawley interviewed recognized and acknowledged when a teacher was open “to what interested, excited, and worried them.”

Boys elicit the kinds of teaching they need.

If either the content or the way it is conveyed to boys is not ‘right’ boys will disengage. As Reichert and Hawley explain, “boys will engage in either passive inattention or diverting disruption.” The teacher will know when he/she has made the proper adjustments when “better engagement, sustained effort and mastery on the boys’ part” is evident.

Lessons must have an element that interests students and holds that interest. Examples include unexpected surprise, kinesthetic activities or competition.

What can we do in Avon Maitland?

Continue to focus on knowing the learner through individualized conversations with students.

Use class profiles, interest surveys and student feedback when designing lessons and activities.

Create fluid and flexible lessons that allow us to make the proper adjustments when we see that students are not engaged rather than expect students to conform to a specific teacher’s prescribed approach.

Recognize that student interests and readiness may vary from semester to semester and from class to class.

Differentiate instruction based on student readiness and interest.

In order for this to happen, the teacher must be an empathetic, reflective practitioner and willing to take risks and try new teaching and learning strategies.

2 Responses to “Effective Teaching Practices for Reaching Boys”

  1. Heather Durnin says:

    Your blog topic was timely. I am struggling to reach a Gr. 7 boy in my class. His parents are supportive, and previous testing results have shown no need for an IEP. A pysch. assessment was recently completed (no results as of yet). I've tried numerous strategies, with poor results.

    Today I was marking his novel study connections. I gave him his book of choice for novel study "book club". He says he loves it, (and I know he does, it's an awesome boy's book) but when it comes to writing down his thoughts, he gives up. Writing is his struggle. At the beginning of the year, I couldn't read a thing he wrote. That has improved, as has his keyboarding skills (ok, I've had some success). He is not computer savvy so really, he's made progress. He knows how to effectively use sticky notes and his graphic organizer. The anchor chart and exemplars are posted right in front of him. He's in a group with a really good bunch of kids who model good writing and re-reading.

    But when it comes to re-reading the text, to give proof, it doesn't happen. I like him, I joke with him, I know his interests, he's great orally in class, and we have a good relationhip. All the right things. But not all his assessments can be oral. When I have to hand him back a bad mark, based on his writing, he becomes ugly, mean, and his behaviour, while short lived, is explosive. The good thing is that it will be over in a matter of 1/2 hr. Then he's back to his old self.

    So, as I read your blog, I was nodding my head, agreeing whole-heartedly. What you're saying is right – it works for most boys. But I'm so frustrated today with my "outlier" and would gladly hear any ideas I could use with him, to get him to put his thoughts on paper/text which show proof from the text.

  2. Kelly Power says:

    Kim, your post is rather interesting. I wish the title of the article was "Effective Teaching Practices for All Learners" though. I, personally believe, after reading for years about this topic, that boy brains and girl brains differ. Period. And as much as we must continue to address the needs of boys and girls in different ways as a teacher, this applies to all learners, regardless of their gender. My two children are good examples (that are against the "norm" as studies seem to indicate). I have a boy who has always been an avid reader of fiction and I have a girl who has never enjoyed reading. She will only NOW pick up non-fiction short text when she is encouraged, but it's not her first choice for an activity. They both need to be taught in differing ways. Most of the suggestions that are in written studies pertaining to boys, are actually good strategies for my daughter and aren't even necessary for my son. We need to consider differing needs as teachers, that may not apply to all children. I like how you finished your post with suggestions that focus on "the learner".

    Heather, I just recently read an article you might be interested in for your student. It was about a teacher who used "Proof-revising" with Podcasting in her classroom. She read the student's text into an audio file (for the student) and the student then listened to the audio version of their writing before they began revising. Apparently, the audio version registered differently (in their brain) for the students and their revisions were hence more effective. Might be worth a try? I'll try to locate the article for you if you are interested. It is through an e-subscription, so I'm unsure of how I can share it with you. Let me look into it.

    Thanks for the food for thought today!

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